Projector Reviews

BenQ HT9060 4K UHD Home Theater Projector- Summary

HT9060 Home Theater Projector Summary:  The Big Picture, The Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros and Cons

HT9060: The Big Picture

First of all, with almost 1400 calibrated lumens in best, calibrated mode, the HT9060 is surprisingly bright for a projector primarily geared for the dedicated home theater, or perhaps a well thought out media room, one with respectable lighting control. True that the BenQ beat its 2200 lumen claim in Bright Mode, (2050 lumens at mid-zoom so over 2400 at it’s closest placement to the screen!)

Projector Reviews Special Interest Award
This award goes to products that are either a cut above but may have a rough edge or two. Or, to high quality, but specialized products.

I still think of this BenQ as more of a home theater projector, but it is as bright as many of the lower cost “living room projectors”, especially comparing calibrated modes.  You could watch sports in Vivid mode in the daytime (especially paired with the right type of screen), and save serious movie viewing to night time as many do in a living room setup, but that’s not focusing on maximizing its value, which will be at its highest in a room with lighting control and ideally with mostly, or all dark surfaces, aka home theater, or “cave.”  Still in terms of brightness, the HT9060 is bright enough to be versatile.

The BenQ HT9060 is a fairly large projector, much larger than many smaller, less expensive DLP projectors, but it is similar in size to the HT9060s’ closest competitors.
The BenQ HT9060 is a fairly large projector, much larger than many smaller, less expensive DLP projectors, but it is similar in size to the HT9060s’ closest competitors.

I really am impressed with the optics. I’m about to fire up the Sony VW695ES – Sony’s $9999 native 4K projector (but lamp-based, not LED.) The BenQ lens provides a crisp clear image better on many scenes than much less expensive projectors. Do not expect today’s under $4K DLP projectors to appear quite as sharp, nor as optically transparent (clear), as this BenQ.

Black levels are good, but hardly exceptional. Dark shadow detail proved to be excellent, although on HDR content there is some crushing of near whites when the source content “cheats” and throws in bright values over the normal 235 (out of 255) grayscale range. You can easily see this on the credits of Ghostbusters (2016).

night city scape
4K HDR - Black Panther

My only real disappointment with the HT9060 is that Jason couldn’t get a more perfect calibration when viewing HDR content. The end result being slightly on the cool side, but overall, the color balance is very good, with skin tones looking really good, if just a touch paler than if the color temp was slightly warmer.

That said, I’ve now watched segments of most of my favorite movies, and tend to only notice the cooler color once in a while, mostly when in “observation” mode, rather than “just watching and enjoying” mode.

night city scape
4K HDR - Black Panther

A quiick note for you other “rainbow sensitive” folks like me:  Thanks to the “I haven’t seen any rainbows”, this is pretty much the first DLP projector I would consider buying in many years. (most folks don’t have to worry about RBE). The older HT9050 had the same optics, but it’s lack of HDR was a deal breaker, so it didn’t come down to the “rainbow effect.”  BTW no good numbers on what percentage of us see RBE.  My guess – and it’s just that – is 5% or so.  In other words, you aren’t likely to see them with DLP projectors, but someone you know will…

Positioning – Wide Screen

Since most folks are perfectly happy with 16:9 screens (HDTV), all those folks should be fine with the manual zoom lens and plenty of lens shift.

If, however, you want to go wide-screen because you really are movie focused, you will have a different option than you will find with most other projectros including he primary competition. Most competitors rely on Lens Memory – which requires motorized zoom and lens shift, not manual.

The trade-off is that since Lens Memory isn’t available, to go wide screen you would go with an anamorphic lens, and motorized sled. That lens (with the BenQ’s support) supports a wide screen image (i.e. Cinemascope movies), but moves out of the way for normal HDTV 16:9 aspect ratio content. There are distinct trade-offs between going anamorphic with an optional lens/sled, vs Lens memory. Here they are:
Lens Memory:

Advantage – low cost (no extra gear).
Disadvantage: Lens memory only uses about 80% of all the pixels, this affects brightness compared to:

Panamorph lens and sled:

Advantage: Uses all of the pixels, which means roughly 25% more brightness (it won’t be quite that much brighter because the extra optics will cost some brightness.
Disadvantage: Adds several thousand dollars to your overall spend, “stretches pixels” so does not use 1:1 pixel mapping. (Technically this is a disadvantage, and definitely would be with 4K content, on a native 4K projector, but with a pixel shifter like the BenQ and other DLPs, they are already not 1:1 pixel mapping, so there’s probably no real additional loss due to the stretching.  Sorry for getting a bit overly “techie” in the summary.

The Competition

This BenQ HT9060 still has that great “DLP look and feel, which I still think handles very dark scenes with very dark colors a bit more naturally than other technologies (3LCD, LCoS). I like to say – “dark colors seems richer – without being over the top.”

Beyond that, however, the HT9060 does face some serious competition, which consists primarily of a pair of JVCs and also a pair of Sony’s. JVC makes native 4K models at $6995 and $9995. The less expensive of the two JVCs, will likely have slightly better black levels than the BenQ, the more expensive one, definitely has better blacks.

In the player below, we start with a photo of the HT9060, and three photo scenes taken using it. That’s followed by a photo of the Sony VW295ES with one sample scene, and the JVC DLA-NX7 with one sample image:

With the Sonys, their entry-level VW295ES lacks a dynamic iris. Without it, it has black level performance not as good as the BenQ, while the $9999 Sony VPL-VW695ES that I am about to unbox in a couple of days, should be slightly better. I will, as noted elsewhere in this review, show some comparison images on black level handling, between this HT9060 and the VW695ES, in that Sony review when it publishes later this month (Feb 2020).

All these projectors – JVC, Sony, and BenQ have good glass, but my guess (strictly that – I am not an engineer, and definitely not an optics engineer) is that either the BenQ’s “glass” is overall slightly better, or that the lack of the need to digitally align the 3 separate color panels on the non-DLP’s, lends to the BenQ seeming “clearer.” I’ve used that term when discussing some high-end Sonys ($30K+) using their expensive ARC lens, although those Sony’s are in a different class of “clear.”

Let’s not confuse optical clarity, btw, with the overall naturalness of the picture, which is more color and contrast related. Naturalness an area where I have long commended Sony, and found in previous reviews, the JVCs to be a bit lacking. I think the HT9060 is a viable competitor, depending, of course, what your priorities are.

The Bottom Line

The HT9060 is a most interesting projector. If you are shopping for a projector in the $5K – $10K range, I would definitely recommend you track down the nearest authorized BenQ AV dealer/integrator, to get a look at one of thee HT9060’s in action (bring a favorite 4K Blu-ray disc or two).  It’s hard not to like when it’s set up properly!

The BenQ looks great, and really sharp, handling typical 1080 resolution sports content. Unfortunately I didn’t get to view native 4K sports programming on the HT9060.
The BenQ looks great, and really sharp, handling typical 1080 resolution sports content. Unfortunately I didn’t get to view native 4K sports programming on the HT9060.

When I get done with my “observing the projector’s picture”, and just kick back like most people to just enjoy some good content, the HT9060 really does a great job. It’s got some real pluses, at the price point, being LED when the competition is running lamps, only slight shifting of color and decrease in brightness over years, not months. (And no visible RBE for me!)

And I am aware of an especially clear looking image – thanks to good optics (combined with single-chip design), so count thoose among the real pluses. The picture is very nicely vibrant and pretty bright, thanks to the auto-tone mapping. So much so, that I chose the -1 setting (not zero), definitely not a dim projector when tackling HDR, unlike some others. The -1 shifts it to look more HDR, less SDR…  a.k.a more pop too the image.

The HT9060 does  great on handling color on very dark scenes like this one from Mockingjaay Part 1.
The HT9060 does great on handling color on very dark scenes like this one from Mockingjaay Part 1.

I do wish BenQ would have included CFI for “smooth motion” for sports fans, and I would have preferred Lens Memory rather than an anamorphic lens option, for the small percentage of us that go widescreen, but overall, the projector looks really good in my theater, especially when running the Kaleidescape movie server, which is especially clean, with the 4K HDR content being as good as, or better than 4K disc (depending on the movie).

I tend to be the black level fanatic around here, but even so, If I were in the market for a projector around $10K, I would definitely have to recommend considering the HT9060 for its strengths, although I would be a bit disappointed with the black level performance on really dark scenes.  (In a good theater!)

That folks, is it, except for the HT9060’s Pros and Cons lists, below. Note, you’ll find a few things mentioned there, that I didn’t get to in the general review. -art

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Excellent Optics
  • 4K UHD resolution using the “higher res” 2716x1528x2 pixel shifting DLP chip
  • Solid state LED light engine offers many advantages over lamps
    • 20,000 hour LED light engine (Philips)
    • Wider color gamut
  • Very good placement flexibility
    • 1.5:1 manual zoom lens
    • A lot of vertical and horizontal lens shift
    • Support for optional Panamorph anamorphic lens and motorized sled – to go wide screen
  • Measures very nicely bright
    • Calibrated 1380 lumens – plenty for a dedicated theater
    • Brighter still in non-calibrated modes – topping 2400 lumens
  • Very good color out of the box
  • Excellent post calibration color for non HDR content
  • HDR content controls do not allow for full calibration for 4K w/HDR, but color results, although balanced,  very good, not as accurate as non-HDR
  • Supports 3D (glasses optional)
  • Very quiet compared to most
  • Overall black level performance good
    • Does deeper blacks with non-HDR content than with (fairly common)
  • Excellent remote control – with really nice backlight
  • Supports CEC for power on/off control by compatible devices
  • No visible RBE – Rainbow Effect. I am part of a small minority that is RBE sensitive, so pleased, to see solid-state design, that doesn’t cause me to see rainbow flashes!
  • A worthy competitor to Sony and JVC models, providing solid-state design where those competitors are lamp-based.

Cons

Cons

  • No CFI for smooth motion
  • More aggressive use of dynamic control of LED engine could have produced deeper blacks
  • HDR mode does not calibrate well, as controls too finiky, (fortunately the pre-set results are very good).
    • The result is a slightly cool, but well balanced image
  • Lacks the motorized lens features (and Lens Memory) that allows for wide-screen use, without the expense of a panamorphic lens (which is an option)
  • On the large and heavy size – tops the scales at 40.8 lbs
    • Still, roughly the same size as JVCs and Sonys
  • No media player on board – but they aren’t normally found in this class of projector
  • No audio on board – this projector deserves a big screen and a quality audio system, not small internal speakers.
  • Could definitely be brighter for handling HDR (like most projectors)
  • Only offers basic placement flexibility, with 1.2:1 zoom and no lens shift
  • No CFI for smooth motion on sports and other HDTV
  • Of course the small 5 watt speaker is no substitute for a real sound system
  • And, 5 watt speaker is side facing, instead of front or back
  • Gaming – Input lag of 48ms is acceptable, but most gamers prefer 33ms of less
  • No support for P3/BT.2020 color space for 4K (projector claims 96% of REC709 the lower existing standard for color space
  • Could be quieter in terms of fan noise at full power and has a sort of hum as part of it.  (That said, it’s typical of this class of projectors.)
  • No onboard media player to allow PC free – plugging in a USB or card for photo shows, and more
  • Has audio out, but Bluetooth audio out would be a nice addition a few projectors are now offering
  • The HT2550 is basically another stupid projector.  Today’s projector manufacturers need to make these projectors smart, like today’s LCD TVs.  We see smarts on some pocket projectors like LGs, but not on mainstream home projectors.  This is a shout out to the whole industry, it sure isn’t just BenQ!